Tony nominee Tony Yazbeck finds perfect role and wife
NEW YORK (AP) — Things have been moving so quickly this year for Tony Yazbeck that he hasn’t had time to squeeze in something important — his honeymoon.
The singer and dancer got married four days after his glorious revival of “On the Town” opened last fall, and he and his bride never got to relax on a beach or even enjoy much of a break.
Instead, Yazbeck threw himself into what he calls “one of the most physically exhausting shows I’ve ever done in my life.” He comes home late and ices his lower body. He eats bananas for potassium and craves magnesium.
“My wife is my hero. I have no idea how I would have gotten through this year. She’s been there for me through so many things,” he says. “She’s really balanced me out. So I REALLY owe her a honeymoon. Like, a massive one.”
Until then, she might settle for a Tony Award. Yazbeck, after years of work in regional theaters and tours, has earned his first nomination for playing one of three sailors looking for love in New York.
The update of the 1944 romance-chasing romp by Leonard Bernstein, Betty Comden and Adolph Green — later made into a film with Gene Kelly and Frank Sinatra — is one of those magical moments when the right actor meets the right show.
Yazbeck is a classy, straight-up guy with rugged, matinee idol looks who grew up idolizing Kelly. And he’s now in a show stamped by Kelly that’s filled with big, crowd-pleasing dance numbers and lavish and clever visuals.
“It has been a sort of happy marriage with who I am as a performer and the role and the time,” he says backstage at the Lyric Theatre. “This part fits me well and it doesn’t happen all the time.”
Born in Riverside, California, Yazbeck moved to Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, at age 4. That’s also when he started to dance.
“I believe that a child has a desire to do his art at a very young age. It came out of me at 4 years old. I was dancing in my living room to Fred Astaire on the TV,” he says.
“My mom and dad saw it and they believed in me right away. They didn’t even doubt it. They both said, ‘Yep, let’s put him in tap class.’ How many parents do that?”
He soon was attending Miss Jeanne’s School of Dance Arts in Bethlehem, but his real teachers seem to have been the films of Kelly, Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers.
“There’s something about them that actually just makes me so happy and takes me away. I lose all my troubles. I still don’t understand why but it’s something I’m very connected to spiritually,” he says. “It’s literally been a point of ministry for me.”
At age 11, he auditioned to be a replacement newsboy in the Tyne Daly-led “Gypsy” on Broadway. His mom drove him the two hours back and forth from home six times a week.
“He a true believer. He works very hard and it doesn’t show,” says Daly, who reconnected with Yazbeck years later on a George Bernard Shaw play. “He’s interested in stretching himself and in finding all the corners of his talent.”
Yazbeck soon was hard at work at places like the Paper Mill Playhouse in New Jersey, The Goodman Theatre in Chicago and the Alliance Theatre in Atlanta, and he toured in “Annie Get Your Gun” and “Thoroughly Modern Millie.”
But it was in 2012 at the Drury Lane Theatre in Oakbrook Terrace, Illinois, when he spotted something that would really change his life: actress and choreographer Katie Huff, who would become his wife. The show was “Singin’ in the Rain.”
“She was coming down the stairs in her costume and I looked at her and I was just like: ‘Oh, man. I’m in trouble,'” he says. “It was kind of love at first sight.”
They were married in Portland, Maine, on Oct. 20. Almost 300 performances later, he still hasn’t taken a break. Maybe after the Tonys, a real honeymoon awaits.
“Somewhere where I don’t have to do anything or move or exert that much energy. I’ll just lay on a beach or a mountaintop and just feel nature,” he says, laughing.
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